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Interview with George van Dam about Presto. Perfect Sound.

Brussels, 23 Oct. - In October, at the Frieze art fair in London, Manon de Boer’s new short film Presto. Perfect Sound was shown for the first time. The film is a portrait of George van Dam, the composer/violinist with whom De Boer collaborated for the soundtrack of Sylvia Kristel-Paris (2003) and Resonating Surfaces (2005). It will be shown as part of Programme (2006-2007). For the gallery’s newspaper the following short interview with Van Dam was made.

Jan Mot  I would like to start by asking you about the piece of music you are playing in the film, called Presto, the fourth movement from Sonata for Violin Solo Sz. 117 by Belà Bartòk (1944), version with micro-intervals. I suppose it's a work you like for different reasons. Can you tell me what makes this music so interesting or attractive to you? And is there a specific reason why you chose this piece in relation to the fact of it being filmed? Did you expect this work to have any 'scenic' or 'filmic' qualities?

George van Dam  The Presto movement was really perfect for the format of the film, being five minutes in length. The music is very fast, so there is much happening. The structure of the music (four bigger sections), creates a tension line, quite similar to a plot, although it remains abstract. We found this sequence of different moods or temperatures to be very rich in a narrative sense and particularly suited for a filmed performance. In this way the film is also very much about the music.

JM  One interesting thing about the way one perceives the violinist, is that the listener/ viewer is so close to the instrument and to the violinist, which obviously cannot be the case in a concert situation.

GvD  Yes, one really gets the same primary information in sound as the violinist; it is quite remarkable how the sound changes from just above the violin until, let's say, the back wall of the hall. The nice thing about a filmed performance is also the way one can play in a more intimate way to the camera and microphones in close proximity, as opposed to projecting into a hall seating around 800 in this particular case. We were really very happy with the fine acoustics in Studio 4 at Flagey. The sound was recorded with six different microphones, two of which were in the middle towards the back of the hall on both sides. We then recreated the space acoustically for a cinema situation by mixing the sound for a 5.1 surround system.

JM  The concept of this work creates a paradoxical feeling of continuity and discontinuity. Can you tell something about how this is expressed in the film?

GvD  In the film, the image and sound is always synchronized because it was recorded and filmed at the same time.  During the filming we did six takes in total.  In the montage process, Manon proposed to me to edit the sound in the most perfect way as it is done nowadays - one takes the best parts of the different takes and edits them together in a way that the cuts are inaudible. The image from the different takes that I used in the sound-edit was subsequently very precisely again linked together to the sound. The result is that one can see the editing that happened in the sound montage, but one does not hear it. When watching the film, one really sees what one hears, and yet the sound is continuous and perfectly smooth whereas the image (also) jumps at the edit points in the audio part. The image relates to the different takes in a perceivable way, and thus creates a kind of almost independent tension in the time-space, although it being intrinsically linked to the source of sound.